One's tolerance for watching "Dance Moms," Lifetime's so-called unscripted reality series about a Penn Hills dance studio featuring high doses of sturm und angst, is not unlike the difference between those who savor cheese and those who find it repellent.
If you're in the former camp, get ready for an extra helping. "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" debuts at 9 p.m. Oct. 9, preceded by a one-hour casting special. Twelve boys and girls ages 6-13 will compete in a 10-week competition, with $100,000 and a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet at stake. "Pussycat Dolls" founder Robin Atin and choreographer Richard Jackson will be among the regulars, with Kevin Manno hosting.
"Dance Moms" has its 90-minute season finale Tuesday at 9 p.m. You haven't missed much, although if you consider the Candy Apples element contrived, hunt down the episode from two weeks ago when sassy, outspoken St. Louis mom Kaya Wiley mysteriously shows up with her daughter, Nicaya.
They hang around just long enough -- one episode -- to make a trip to California with the Abby Lee Dance Studio, giving Ms. Miller time to play mind games with the new girl and series regular Paige Hyland, who is back from a serious foot injury.
Who will get to dance in the group number? Back and forth goes Abby, and, of course, in the end both get to strut their stuff in a bizarre, conceptual number. In last week's episode, they were inexplicably gone (online reports indicate they're back in Missouri).
So, there's that...
• On "Face Off" (Syfy, 9 p.m. Tuesdays), it was Chinese New Year, or at least it was create-your-dancing-dragon week. The artists were given a spotlight challenge to work in teams of two, incorporating their Chinese zodiac symbols into a parade-worthy dragon.
Alana Rose Schiro of Staten Island, N.Y. -- a graduate of the Tom Savini Special Make-up Effects Program in Monessen -- teamed with Laura Tyler for a goat/monkey creature that looked more caprine than reptilian, but it was good enough to advance them to the next round. Ms. Schiro also was working with a bandaged hand; early in the three-day challenge, she sliced into her hand and required seven stitches.
Fellow Savini grad Jason Milani of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., had to sweat out the judges review. Working with Texan Roy Wooley on a rat/snake dragon (shades of the original "Survivor" finale, anyone?) his paint job on the face was deemed an all-around fail.
The snaky face was bright red, with small black splotches, resembling a preschooler's soccer ball. But their overall design was strong enough to carry them through. And what a challenge awaits next week: "Alice in Zombieland."
Guest judge will be Paul W.S. Anderson, who is no doubt up to the gruesome task. Mr. Anderson has directed a slew of ultra-violent films, including "Death Race," "Mortal Kombat" and several in the "Resident Evil" series.
• On "Big Brother" (CBS, Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays), Shaler Area's Ian Terry solved a puzzle that might well have saved his chance at winning the big prize.
In a surprise double-elimination episode Thursday night, he was nominated for eviction. But he won the Power of Veto competition, appropriately called "Swimming With Sharks," and was able to save himself from the hot seat.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Terry earned Head of Household by winning a competition involving clinging to a rope swing as it circled a giant cheesy-looking fake sun (or perhaps it was a comet). This went on for hours, as one by one the remaining houseguests dropped off or were pushed off by collisions with other fake heavenly bodies (insert joke here about the high incidence of cosmetic enhancement among reality-show contestants).
To pass the time, Mr. Terry, an engineering student at Tulane University, began reciting scientific equations and talking about acceleration and astronomy. Later, after he'd won and was enjoying the perks of staying in the HOH suite, he opened up to a fellow houseguest about his OCD.
He also participated in a Pandora's Box event that brought viewers Christmas in September, and Mr. Terry all sorts of cool stuff, such as Legos and $1,000.
But as usual, all was not what it appeared to be in the house. Mr. Terry and two others made "final two" deals with house-guest Dan Gheesling, and the latter's double/triple dealing was masterful, even by "Big Brother" standards.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published September 8, 2012 4:00 AM